More people participate in the sport of running than any other athletic endeavor. Yet, most people don't actually follow the sport in any way outside of their own efforts. This even extends to Hollywood and some of the running-themed movies that have been released. But fear not, friends. I'm here to cut through all of that BS and tell you which running movies you SHOULD watch, as well as others that you could. As with everything we evaluate, this is completely arbitrary and you may come away from this thinking "Man, that Chris guy is an idiot. That movie sucks." And that's ok. You'd likely be wrong, but I'm ok with that if you are.
In any event, here are some of my favorite movies. Get your popcorn ready.
McFarland USA tells the story of a rural California high school's journey into the world of Cross Country. A completely foreign sport to the school and area, the movie chronicles the journey of both coach and team in their first season. This movie is made by Disney, which means it's going to have that cheesy, feel-good vibe to it. Even if that's not your thang, it's still really was entertaining. While it doesn't completely stick to the true story of Jim White, the famed coach of McFarland High School, they don't make the back story too absurd. Overall, I think they did a nice job with the casting. Sure, there's some overacting by certain characters at certain parts, and some parts of the movie will seem far-fetched, but overall, it works. And I'll be damned if Mrs. Diaz doesn't become one of your favorite characters.
Ever hear of Steve Prefontaine? If you haven't, Google him and spend the next 6 hours reading about the legend that is Pre. Without Limits is one of several movies that chronicles Steve Prefontaine's life and running career (a couple notable other movies being Prefontaine and Fire on the Track). But, Without Limits is (among running circles) considered the best movie about the "kid from Coos Bay". BIlly Crudup nails Pre's running form. Donald Sutherland plays a pretty believable Bill Bowerman. It was written by a former Oregon Duck, Kenny Moore, who was a contemporary of Pre, and even featured a cameo by Frank Shorter (if you don't know who Frank Shorter is, Google him, too). I don't love the casting of some of his competitors, but I don't care. This movie kicks ass. The rise of the movie builds to the unforgettable 1972 Olympic 5,000m that, to this day, is still one of my favorite races to watch of all time. There's a solid amount of emotion, good acting and nostalgia here to satisfy the biggest running geeks out there, including this one. Admittedly, I watch it the night before every race I have.
The Jericho Mile
This is a made-for-TV movie from 1979. And, you know what? I really enjoyed it. It totally feels like a made-for-TV movie. But, like, a really good made-for-TV movie. It's the only movie on this list not based on a true story. It's got some dark subplots (the main character is serving a life sentence for shooting his dad who routinely beats his stepsister, for example), but it does a nice job of weaving it into the story. Essentially, it surrounds the story of Larry Murphy, an inmate at Folsom Prison and his unexpected journey as a runner amidst the gritty prison population. What's cool is that this was filmed on location, amongst the actual inmates. Bonus points for that. While farfetched, it was a solid 92 minute watch, despite having to watch it on YouTube on my computer. Side note, run nebraska's own (and my charming wife), Ashley, made fun of me liking this movie. She thought it was dumb. And you know what? I think she's dumb.
This is a documentary that's currently on Netflix. I wasn't sure what to expect going into it, but figured I'd like it as much as Donald Trump likes McDonald's. I was right. It was a really good documentary following two men in Kenya, Arile and Matamba, who were once "warriors", making a living running around with AK-47s stealing cattle, and their lives once they give up the guns. The simplicity in which they live will make you appreciate our First World existence more. And, you end up really pulling for these guys. If you don't think/feel either of those things, see your religious leader of choice to see if you have a soul or any empathy.
Other running films you might want to check out:
Give it a watch. It's about the manhunt for the two pieces of shit that set off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Sometimes tough to watch, it follows the struggles of Jeff Bauman as he recovers from his double leg amputation after the Boston Marathon bombing.
This isn't the best movie about Pre. But it's worth watching. Jared Leto as Pre is not terrible (not as good as Billy Crudup), and it also has Al Bundy in it.
Want to watch a down-on-your-luck high schooler struggle with running and life? Then give this 90 minutes of your day. You won't necessarily hate the movie, but you probably won't love it, either.
Fire on the Track
Did you know that comedian Dana Carvey was a really fast runner in high school? Me either until I watched this. But this is a documentary-style film about Steve Prefontaine, not Dana Carvey. Very much worth the watch. I just like going off on random tangents.